Published May 30, 2012
The judge in the corruption trial of John Edwards sent the four alternate jurors home Wednesday, after their odd behavior made headlines as the jury deliberations dragged on.
The alternates don't need to return unless a juror has to be excused, but Judge Catherine Eagles told them they still should not discuss the case. The alternates gave audible sigh of relief.
"Everyone in the courtroom will miss your cheerful faces," Eagles said. "We will regret not knowing the color for tomorrow."
Last week, the four alternate jurors began wearing color-coordinated shirts, with bright yellow shirts on Thursday followed by red on Friday. They took a break from the routine Tuesday but on Wednesday were back at it, wearing purple.
The jury deliberations are well into their second week, as legal analysts begin to wonder whether the panel has deadlocked on the charges against Edwards, a former Democratic senator and failed presidential candidate.
He is accused of funneling $1 million from two wealth donors to keep his mistress quiet about their affair and love child in 2008, when Edwards was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. He could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
His attorneys argue he did nothing illegal, saying the cover-up doesn't fall under federal campaign finance law restrictions.
Judge Eagles extended Wednesday's deliberations by a half-hour and plans to do the same the next day in order to allow jurors to recess early Friday -- to attend high school graduations and other family events.
Jurors have provided Eagles with schedule requests through next week.
Kieran Shanahan, a former federal prosecutor who's been watching the trial, said that could be a signal from dissenting jurors to other members of the panel "that they're resolute in the position and they'll stay as long as necessary."
"Initially, it looked like the jury was just going to walk through each count," Shanahan said. "They asked for every document associated with each count. But we're now in day eight. And I think it suggests there's division as to guilt or innocence among the jurors."
Shanahan suggested the color-coordination was probably not a matter of concern.
"I like to think it's these alternate jurors, sequestered away with literally nothing to do, but no pressure on them either," Shanahan said. "So, good for them. I think they were just having a little bit of fun."
It still isn't clear what the issue was regarding an individual juror or jurors who issued notes to the judge. Those two notes prompted four closed-door meetings between the judge and lawyers on both sides of the case.